My best friend Dan made the point that morals cannot be truly separated from religion. Morals were created by religions—the most well-known code in the West being, obviously, the Bible. Other religions have their own moral codes, which have both similarities and dissimilarities to the code derived from the teachings of Moses and Jesus.
Thus, I’m not advocating that moral teachings themselves be separated from religion. What I’m advocating is a re-prioritizing of our moral code to emphasize people’s happiness, empowerment, compassion, and courage, rather than defining our moral worth in terms of our response to sexual temptation.
This is why the use of the terms “purity” and “virtue” exclusively to describe sexlessness has always irritated me. I would much prefer to see these words used to describe a holistic incorruptibility, rather than a state of abstinence from something. Pure people are those who do not allow evil to taint them into losing faith in humanity, nor into losing their motivation to strive to create a better world. The lack of this kind of purity in our world is far more dangerous than the kind of purity defined by sexual chastity.
To me, people’s virtue should be defined by how they treat people, their kindness, their ability to manage their emotions, their use of peaceful means of conflict-resolution, their choice to help people who have failed rather than negatively judge and exclude them, and their courage to stand up against injustice. If such people want to include sexual celibacy in that collection of virtues, fine; but they do themselves a disservice if they condition their self-concept of virtue and purity on their sexual intentions or history.
In contrast to the morality passed down by the Abrahamic monotheistic religions, I have always resonated more with “Eastern” religious moral codes, such as the idea of ahimsa, the simplest definition of which is “non-violence.” The idea of ahimsa, and similar codes, is that your moral choices are dictated by the mandate to do no harm, or the mandate to work for your own and other people’s happiness. Thus, if what you are thinking of doing would cause harm to another person, you don’t do it.